Cliff Force Cave by Andy Cole

Cliff Force Cave: Ian Cummins, Caddy, Phil Parker, Andy Cole. Walkers, Claire and Lynette (18th January 2014).

We arrived at the very scenic Buttertubs pass on a typical cold wet January day, at the end of a particularly wet week. I half expected the cave would be flooded as the entrance is just above the resurgence, and the cave drains a large area of moorland.

On the way I’d dropped Claire and Lynette off to walk to Hardraw via Great Shunner fell and the Pennine way. I walked with them for the first ½ mile or so, across a saturated moor, leaving them to disappear into the cloud.

Before changing we looked across the valley to view the water levels, which seemed quite low, surprising considering the recent weather and state of the moor. Arriving at the cave entrance Phil, Caddy and I sorted ourselves out with our backs to Ian who, when we were ready, had already disappeared underground. I followed, or so I thought, into an obvious slot in the crag, quickly arriving at a low wet crawl. It looked just possible for me to squeeze through, then I realised the still water was clear, so obviously Ian hadn’t come this way!

Back out, we soon located the correct way in and made our way through the entrance series, with several rather loud mutterings from one of our party about not possibly fitting through this or that bit of passage. We all got through without any problems though.

A small bit of passage in the entrance series.
…same bit of passage with a caver for scale.

The streamway wasn’t as wet as expected, although everywhere there was evidence of recent flooding, plenty of foam well above our heads. I kept thinking of the guide book warning that most of the cave downstream of Fault Hall floods, with the water ponding up due to the constricted resurgence. Walking upstream we soon arrived at the crawl into Fault Hall, accompanied by yet more mutterings about the size of the crawl!

First awkward bit below the entrance climb.

Once through the short crawl (now slightly roomier due to some excavation by us) we proceeded upstream along the attractive stream passage, it definitely gets better in this section. Ian found the oxbow bypass to the duck, which we had missed on a previous trip. Following the oxbow took us to the upstream side of the duck; it was well under water, not at all obvious apart from a dive line. From here it was a short distance to the Room of Dangling Doom, very aptly named. The roof consists of narrow limestone beds around 2-3 feet thick, separated from each other by thin shale bands, which obviously don’t stick one bed to another. The lower beds are bent downwards under their own weight in many places, having separated from the one above. In several places there is evidence of recent collapse. Not a place to make a lot of noise or hang about.

From here we made our way out, the water levels were much the same on our return and after another session of thrutching and awkward corners in the entrance series we returned to the surface.

A quick change followed by a trip to the Green Dragon for a well-earned pint in front of the open fire finished off a good day.